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2003 French Grand Prix 
What the teams and drivers said - Sunday  

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Drivers Championship Constructors Championship
Reports & Results

What the teams and drivers said - Sunday

Williams ( Ralf Schumacher - 1st, Juan Pablo Montoya - 2nd )

Sam Michael: "This is a fantastic day for the team. Ralf drove a brilliant race today, true textbook style, not putting a foot wrong. The current performance of the BMW WiliamsF1 Team is the result of a number of factors and the effort put in by our technical partners, but it is fair to say that the latest improvements have predominantly come from the aerodynamic department and through Michelin's intensive tyre development work."

Mario Thiessen: "The second consecutive 1-2 is simply unbelievable if you think about how weak we were at the start of the season. The way we dominated the race from the first to the last lap was stunning. We were able to go faster than everybody else at any time. After the third pit-stop we just eased up. Front row and a 1-2 finish is the best result we have ever achieved in our three and a half years of partnership. With regards the Championship, we have nearly caught Ferrari which is good for us and for the fans in future races."

Ralf Schumacher: "Finally I did it from pole position! In the first part of the race it all seemed to go very well but after the first pit stop the car did not feel so good and I lost some time. Also I was delayed by several drivers that I had to lap, especially Jarno Trulli, who I could not overtake due to a yellow flag. Regarding the light off I had in the last laps, it was my fault as I braked too late. I hope we can keep this momentum going even though we are now going to circuits that are even tougher on the car. We are definitely getting closer and closer to Ferrari but for the moment I prefer not to think about our World Championship chances as things can change so quickly in F1."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "I was not too comfortable in my car today and I was losing time, especially in the third sector. I pushed very hard and decided to come in earlier for my second pit-stop because there was quite a lot of traffic and I was wasting time but still I could not catch Ralf. On this track you cannot really overtake easily, so you try to do it with the pit-stop strategy. After the third stop I just backed off and drove to secure my position, as Michael Schumacher was a fair amount of seconds behind me with only a few laps to go."

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Ferrari ( Michael Schumacher - 3rd, Rubens Barrichello - 7th )

Jean Todt: "As we had expected, this was a difficult race. Michael managed to limit the damage in the Drivers' championship with his third place finish, while Rubens' two points helped us to maintain the lead in the Constructors'. Undoubtedly, the balance of power in the last four races between ourselves and the BMW, Williams, Michelin package has shifted in their favour. Both Championships' are now wide open. With six races remaining, there are four drivers within 17 points and three teams covered by 18.
Now we are about to tackle a week of testing, the last before the summer break and it will be very important. We will be in action at Mugello, Barcelona and Fiorano, working along with Bridgestone, on the entire package. We will put all our efforts into improving the situation, with the aim of maintaining our lead in both Championships to the very end of the season."

Ross Brawn: "Given the situation, we can be satisfied with Michael's third place. It was a shame for Rubens, whose car was going well. After his spin, we changed the strategy and at least we managed to get him home in the points. We were not competitive enough today. We still lead both championships, but our advantage in the Constructors' is now much reduced. We know we have to work around the 360 degrees of the whole package. As from next Tuesday, we will be running in Barcelona, Mugello and finally at Fiorano to try out new solutions on the car and with the tyres."

Michael Schumacher: "We realised earlier in the weekend that we were not going to be as competitive here as we had expected, so third place was probably the best I could do. At the start, Kimi got ahead because he made a better start: we will have to see if it was my reaction time or something on the car. David nearly came past as well and we ran side by side for a couple of corners which was exciting. I got back ahead of the two McLarens, because they pitted earlier for the first two stops, so we knew they would have to take on a heavier fuel load at the end.
I pushed hard at that point and that gave me the advantage. The car was as good as it could have been, although I struggled a bit on the second set of tyres. We have a good car, but so has BMW-Williams. Of course we are aware of the situation, but we will now work very hard with Bridgestone to improve the situation. We are definitely not going through a crisis. I have extended my championship lead over Kimi and I am confident we can put an end to this current run of poor results."

Rubens Barrichello: "I got my line wrong at the new chicane at the end of the first lap, as I was unsighted because I was following Alonso's Renault in front of me very closely. When I turned, I went up on the kerb, the car didn't want to respond and all I can say is that it was my mistake. My chances of a good result ended at that moment. For the rest of the race, I tried to climb back through the field, making the most of the change to a two stop strategy. I managed to do just that and at least I picked up a couple of valuable points for the Constructors' championship."

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McLaren (  Kimi Raikkonen - 4th, David Coulthard - 5th )

Ron Dennis: "Perhaps it's understandable that when the first five cars are quite strung out it's a little more difficult for the marshalls to understand exactly which drivers are in what position. Even so it was extremely frustrating for both David and Kimi to lose so much time when overtaking backmarkers. Neither car's performance was perfect. David suffered a fuel rig problem and Kimi a rear brake disk failure three laps from the end of the race. In the circumstances the single point differential to Michael fell squarely into the category of damage limitation. This year we have a fantastically competitive World Championship and I'm sure that all the contenders will fight to the end, we certainly will."

Norbert Haug: "Fourth and fifth places were what we could have achieved today taking into account the problems we had. Kimi experienced a brake disk problem in the latter part of the race and David's refuelling incident during his third stop cost him valuable time and a possible third place. The Formula One World Championships battle is now very close with the first three drivers within 11 points and the teams' within 18. We are certainly looking forward to Silverstone, one of our three home races and the entire team is working hard to improve on today's performance."

Kimi Raikkonen: "I'm not satisfied by finishing fourth as I was third for most of the race. However I lost so much time stuck in traffic behind cars which seemed to be ignoring the blue flags that Michael was able to get past me after his final pitstop. In addition I had no brakes during the last few laps as I lost the rear disk and you can't drive fast without brakes, so not a brilliant day. However on the bright side Michael only managed to extend his lead by one point but the Championship is getting closer with Ralf Schumacher closing on me. It should be an exciting race at Silverstone in two weeks time."

David Coulthard: "I made a good start and was fighting with Michael throughout turn one and two but couldn't really get past. When the race settled Kimi and I were able to run at the same pace but were not fast enough to challenge for the lead. Unfortunately there were a couple of problems during my third pitstop. Initially the fuel nozzle didn't attach correctly and we had to use the second one and then struggled when we had to remove it. Fortunately nobody was injured in the incident but I lost a possible third place."

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Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 6th, Antonio Pizzonia - 10th )

Dr. Mark Gillan: "Yet another very pleasing result and one which has taken us into 6th place in the Constructor's Championship. The reliability and pace of the Jaguar R4 is now competitive to the extent that Mark was holding his own out there with the front-runners. We have scored points in the last three races and we go to Silverstone in search of more. Both cars made good starts and we decided to adopt a three-stop strategy for both drivers.
In Mark's case, this worked perfectly but Antonio was unlucky in that we had trouble with the rear jack that cost us a couple of seconds. Having made his second stop, Antonio was then unlucky to join the race behind the Toyota of Da Matta who was on a two-stop strategy and this cost Antonio a lot of time and subsequently reduced his chances of a points challenge today. Mark again drove a determined and excellent race and we go to Barcelona this week to capitalise further on the strengths of the R4 package.
Cosworth, Michelin, Pi Research and everyone back at the Milton Keynes factory thoroughly deserve the points but we are far from finished. With six races left to go, there are still an awful lot of points to play for and given our pace and reliability on Michelin rubber, we expect to challenge right up to the chequered flag in Suzuka."

Mark Webber: "We had a good car today and it performed very well indeed. I was actually catching the Renaults but ran out of fuel in the last sector en route to my first pit stop. We put some extra fuel into the car and after that, I pushed very hard indeed. We are still learning and developing the package but three points is great news for the team and its partners.
The boys again did an excellent job today during the pit stops and Michelin have again stamped their superiority on the tyre-war with Bridgestone. This is now the third race in succession that we have scored points and to have jumped into 6th place in the Constructor's Championship is fantastic, albeit we know there is still so much to play for and given how many teams are working on package upgrades, we will keep pushing hard right till the bitter end."

Antonio Pizzonia: "The car was very good today but unfortunately my challenge for points was ended by the two-stop strategy of others. We knew going into the race that there was always a risk of being caught in the traffic of those teams on a different strategy and that's exactly what happened to me. My first pit-stop was fine but after my second one, I got stuck behind Da Matta who was two stopping. This cost me so much time and in the end, the front eight just peeled away and the gap became too big to close.
Disappointing given how well we have performed here this weekend and combined with the Michelin rubber and Cosworth power, it was shame to have not maximised and shared some points with Mark. There is always an element of risk involved with race strategies and I was unlucky to have been on the receiving end of the downside today. On a positive note, the competitiveness and pace of the Jaguar R4 is now up there. The balance of the car is very good and there are still six races left to exploit this and earn some points for the team and myself."

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Toyota ( Olivier Panis - 8th, Cristiano da Matta - 11th )

Ove Andersson: "I am pleased that we have managed to get one point from today's race. The team has worked well this weekend and the cars have been reliable and relatively quick. We have a good solid result and another point in the bag - a particularly fitting one for Olivier at his home grand prix. Hopefully, the upward trend will continue now and more points will come. We have some improvements coming for Silverstone, so I think we can realistically target a two-car finish in the points at the British Grand Prix."

Olivier Panis: "This eighth place is a very positive result for the team. The car felt good and I drove a strong race. In my career, I have never finished a race here at Magny-Cours, so I am relieved that this record has finally changed. I pushed really hard to keep my position and a point is a point, one that I am happy to take it in front of my home crowd. We are making progress step-by-step, but we need to continue to improve the car ahead of the next grand prix in Britain. We have made good progress at the last three grands prix, but we need to keep increasing our competitiveness."

Cristiano da Matta: "The positive things we can say after today's race is that we have our reliability back and didn't suffer from any problems during the race itself. We struggled in the race because we probably made the incorrect tyre choice, opting for prime rather than option. We cannot really blame this decision on anyone because we had wet conditions on Friday, from which we couldn't draw any conclusions, and then only 40-or-so laps on Saturday morning to decide our entire race set-up. Looking ahead, I am very optimistic for Silverstone because we had a positive test there recently, and it is a track I enjoy, so we'll be looking for points."

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BAR ( Jacques Villeneuve - 9th, Jenson Button - Retired )

David Richards: "The best aspect of today's race for the team has been the reconfirmation of the strength of the B*A*R chassis and Honda engine relative to the other Bridgestone runners. The past few Grands Prix have not favoured our package, but I have no doubt that the pendulum will swing in the other direction in the coming races. For Silverstone we have another evolution of the Honda engine and a set of aero developments that should raise our performance."

Geoff Willis: "Jacques drove an excellent race today pushing hard at every stage, and despite jumping ahead of Pizzonia at the last stop, unfortunately finished just out of the points. At Jenson's first stop the crew had a problem getting the fuel nozzle on to his car and had to revert to the other rig. However, due to an error, only a fraction of the fuel was delivered by this second rig, and during the time it took to reconcile the conflicting data, we were unable to pit Jenson in time to avoid him stopping out on the circuit.
I would like to thank the crew for their performance all year, as pit-stops are one of our strengths, and this was an uncharacteristic problem which we will review in the calm light of day. Given the performance of our competitors' tyres it was always going to be difficult to score points here, but we look forward to our imminent Honda engine and aero upgrades, along with future tyre developments, to renew our battle for points."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "Jacques did well to finish ninth having started 12th on the grid, but it's clearly frustrating to just miss out on points. It was obviously an exasperating afternoon for Jenson. We're all looking forward to a productive test in Barcelona next week and of course the team's home race at Silverstone, where we'll be working hard to give the local fans and all our staff a good result."

Jacques Villeneuve: "The balance of the car was good today and the Honda engine worked well. Of course I am happy to have finished a race without any technical problems but ending up ninth is pretty frustrating. I am pleased with how the car has been working but the limiting factor was the tyres today and there's nothing more that we could do. I'm looking forward to Silverstone, where we hope to be more competitive."

Jenson Button: "It's obviously very disappointing to retire from a race because of a problem like this. It's been a tough weekend but the team put the problems behind them and made the best of things. The race was going well; we were slow but the balance was good. I got a bit of oversteer after four or five laps but then the balance seemed to come back soon after. I was made aware by the team that there was a fuel delivery problem but then the car stopped out on track before I had time to make another pitstop. I'm looking forward to our home race in two weeks time when I hope the development work we've been doing with the engine and aerodynamics will see us improving for the rest of the season."

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Sauber ( Heinz Harald Frentzen - 12th, Nick Heidfeld - 13th )

Peter Sauber: "We could not expect more than this result, although you're always hoping to score a point. But we are happy that we have regained our mechanical reliability, which was our strength at the beginning of this season. Negative was that Jaguar overtook us. The three-stop strategy with Heinz-Harald was a good decision, but I have to say now that the two-stop strategy chosen for Nick was wrong."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "I was on a three-stop strategy and I think that was a good decision. The car was well-balanced, but I had to look in the mirrors a lot as I was lapped quite a few times. At my last pit stop there was a misunderstanding and that's why I left the pits too early, before my crew had finished the refuelling. Fortunately no-one got hurt. I apologise for this incident."

Nick Heidfeld: "I had an average start - I neither won nor lost positions. We decided upon a two-stop strategy, but now I am not sure whether this was the right step. My biggest difficulty today was an electronic problem selecting the lower gears, and at my second pit stop there was a problem with the right front wheelnut."

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Minardi ( Justin Wilson - 14th , Jos Verstappen - 16th )

Paul Stoddart: "All in all, it wasn't a bad weekend -- to have a provisional pole position and to get both cars home ahead of the Jordans and within sight of the Saubers wasn't a bad day's work. As usual, both our drivers and the team did an excellent job."

Justin Wilson: "I knew with the fuel strategy we had today that I just had to push hard for the whole race and keep going -- Jos was on a three-stopper and it was going to be close whether that or the two-stop approach we had chosen was going to be better. The guys did a good job with the pit stops and that really helped.
I thought there was an intermittent problem with the transmission in the first part of the race, as the car was losing speed quite badly on the straights, which is how Ralph Firman passed me. I eventually re-passed him, and although the problem had me concerned for a while, it cleared up and the car was fine for the rest of the race. Anyway, it's another Grand Prix finish, which is really good."

Jos Verstappen: "It was a hard race, particularly in terms of the handling of the car. It started well enough and the initial set of tyres was good. After the first stop, though, the tyres were okay for five laps, but then the car developed bad oversteer, so much so that I blistered the rears badly. Late in the stint, the engine also suffered a broken exhaust, but I just pushed as hard as I could.
Following the second pit stop, the handling was really bad and I lost a lot of time, while after the final scheduled stop, the handling was again good for the first few laps, but then deteriorated. Five laps from the end of the race, the left front wheel came loose turning into one of the high-speed chicanes, and I had no choice but to drive straight on. I came into the pits for a new set of tyres and went back out, but the car didn't feel quite right and I pitted again two laps later for the guys to check it.
They assured me everything was okay, and I then set my fastest lap. All the problems meant we were frequently being lapped this afternoon, and it's hard to run your own race when you're getting blue flags all the time and having to move over for other cars. Anyway, at least I made it to the finish, which is a small reward for all the effort put in by the team."

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Jordan ( Ralph Firman - 15th, Giancarlo Fisichella - Retired )

Gary Anderson: "This Grand Prix was tough for us. We struggled with grip all weekend and it was the same story in the race. Giancarlo had an engine failure but our pace was not good so if he'd finished it wouldn't have been in the points anyway. We had to bring Ralph in for an extra stop because he experienced a vibration and we wanted to check everything was okay. Clearly our result is disappointing for all but we are all working hard to improve the whole package -- chassis, engine and tyres."

Ralph Firman: "The car started off quite good on the first set of tyres but I gradually had more and more oversteer as the circuit got more grip. There was a slight hesitation with the engine after the first stop and I also had to come in for an extra stop so the team could investigate a vibration after my second stop. I'm looking forward to testing in Barcelona next week and then my home Grand Prix at Silverstone."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "I'm very disappointed. The car had a lot of oversteer and virtually no grip, we are struggling with the whole package. Our pace is not good enough compared to everyone else. Fighting with the Minardis for the last few positions is not my target. I need a better car and hope it will come soon - we need a big step."

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Renault (Jarno Trulli - Retired, Fernando Alonso - Retired )

Flavio Briatore: "The weekend had gone well for the team until the problems in the race. We were quite competitive, and could have scored some important points, instead of which we leave empty-handed. We will now work hard to solve these problems, and concentrate on the next race at Silverstone."

Mike Gascoyne: "A frustrating end to a competitive race, which saw both cars retire for the first time this season. The drivers performed well, especially Jarno who had the edge today. He suffered an engine command problem, which caused an initial loss of performance, before he had to retire the car. Fernando's engine let go suddenly. It is extremely disappointing finish the weekend like this, and more so because it is our home race."

Denis Chevrier: "Fernando's car suffered a sudden engine failure, which we discovered at the same time as everybody else. We have several ideas as to the problem, but cannot reach a firm conclusion before inspecting the engine. Ascertaining Jarno's problem is more difficult: he was suffering from a performance loss, whose cause we cannot yet determine. Without an examination of the car, we are unable to confirm any of our numerous hypotheses."

Jarno Trulli: "Retiring is always frustrating, and even more so when the team has both cars in the points. I ran well from the start, and managed to keep up with Michael and the McLarens ahead of me; the car had a good balance and was handling well. Five or six laps after my second stop, I suffered a loss in engine performance. It got worse for several laps before the car stopped completely. It's a real shame, because it was a very good race for us until that point."

Fernando Alonso: "I don't know exactly what the problem was, the engine simply failed as I was approaching the hairpin, just after I had moved ahead of Jarno. Of course, it is disappointing: we were both in good positions to score points today."

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